The Story Behind Papa John’s Pizza

How does a man go from briefing the Secretary of Defense to flipping Papa John’s Pizzas, to Winning “National Franchisee of the Year”?

Here’s how…

When people walked into the first Papa John’s Pizza in the Washington Metropolitan Area in Sterling, Virginia in 1993, they saw a smiling man standing out of the way, but clearly overseeing the operation.  Many wondered, and sometimes even asked, “Is that Papa John?”  It wasn’t Papa John, it was Colonel William Freitas and here is his story…

Colonel Freitas, a highly decorated Vietnam Veteran, rose through the officer ranks of the United States Army after graduating from Colorado State University as a distinguished military graduate.  “The Colonel” (as everyone calls him) accepted his commission and was stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  He was a Bird Dog pilot in Vietnam in 1967 where he flew Cessna spotters.  He returned to Vietnam in 1971 as a Cobra helicopter pilot.  He then was selected to command an air cavalry troop in Fort Hood, Texas in 1976, and then a tank battalion in Fort Polk, Louisiana in 1983.  A stint at the National War College brought him and his family (his wife Frances and sons Andy and Patrick) to the Washington, DC area in 1985.  While in DC, he worked with the Joint Chiefs of Staff as Chief of Conventional War Plans during the Gulf War.

Upon retirement from active duty, The Colonel and his eldest son, Andy went to Louisville, Kentucky to research this new franchise opportunity called “Papa John’s”.  They found such synergy with their business ethics, practices, food quality, and customer service standards, that their choice became clear.  But what really won them over was the great taste of Papa John’s Pizza!  They knew they had to be part of this great team and that their lives were changing right then and there.

The Colonel not only put his heart and soul into his first store, but every penny he had.  His goal:  To make his one store the best run Papa John’s in the country.  He believed in the brand so much that he reinvested every penny made into building more stores, not even taking a pay check for over 5 years.

The Colonel and Andy ran the business with Andy as the company’s first general manager (he now serves as the Chief Operating Officer).  His youngest son, Patrick, joined the team as a delivery driver and now serves as Senior Vice President of Operations supervising Papa John’s stores in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties in Maryland.

By 2015, The Colonel was operating 63 Papa John’s locations throughout Maryland and Virginia.

In 2009, Colonel’s Limited was recognized by Papa John’s International as “National Franchisee of the Year” – Best of the Best in the USA!

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